Navigating Panic Attacks: Finding a Path Forward

When a panic attack occurs, the usual underlying worry that corrodes our lives suddenly changes its course and decides it would be better to try to harm us, preferably very soon.

We might be supposed to give a long speech in a few minutes, but stand frozen in the theater wings with a dry mouth, racing heart, and a mind that can’t even remember the alphabet, let alone our own name.

The airplane doors close and the realization hits that we won’t be able to get off for six hours, and we’re surrounded by hundreds of people and jet engines, and suddenly the situation feels surreal, cruel, and unsurvivable.

Or at a business meeting when we realize our bodies are about to react in an embarrassing way, and we feel like it would be best to not continue with our lives and be taken away.

What should we do in such moments? Can philosophy help us when we’re on the verge of losing control?

There might be some advice to hold on to:

Firstly, even though it feels embarrassing, these things happen all the time, even to respectable people. It feels like the end, but it’s not.

Secondly, accept the fear; don’t fight it. It’s best to let the waves carry you and refuse to be humiliated by the panic.

Thirdly, when calm returns, try to understand this with a friend or therapist and reassert that you have every right to exist and draw pleasure from life.

Also, consider that the panic might be related to past traumas or feelings of unworthiness.

Lastly, don’t avoid everything that scares you; don’t let the panic reduce you. Answer the aggression with a deeply unconditional love towards yourself.